Smarter Scaffolds for Improved Cell/Tissue Interactions: New Research

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There is a growing need for improvements in synthetic assembly techniques aimed at constructing artificial tissue constructs both for therapy and further research. In recent months, we highlighted recent work on combinatorial assembly approaches for vascular tissue scaffold assembly, as well as 3D scaffolds for iPSC differentition – a drop in the bucket of the ever-increasing body of work in a field that is, despite significant medical impetus, still for many of its applications, in the development stage.

Since our entry last year, “Towards ‘Smarter’ 3D Scaffolds,” which highlighted improvements in biomaterial design that are introducing innovative combination and hybrid materials coated with biomaterials such as growth factors or cells for improved in vivo behavior, the field has seen some remarkable progress in the form of innovative research surface thereby expanding the existing capabilities for tissue regeneration using such combinatorial techniques.

Just a few months ago, work by David Mooney’s lab at Harvard University, published in Nature Biotechnology, disclosed an innovative, injectable scaffold/drug hybrid that self-assembles in the body into macroporous structures that, once delivered to the target tissue, alongside delivery of the drug, recruit host cells to provide a substrate for adhesion and tissue regeneration. The structures, based on mesoporous silica rods, were tested in mice and shown to be able to recruit dendritic cells in the host whose behavior can be further modulated by sustained release of inflammatory signals from the scaffold. The authors tested the delivery of vaccines from the scaffold with promising results based on the effect on systemic helper T cells and cytotoxic T cell levels evaluated after injection.

Elsewhere, further evidence was presented that particular tissues require very specific and tailored three-dimensional surfaces for optimal behavior. Work by Laura Ballerini’s lab at the University of Trieste, published in Nature Scientific Reports, highlighted a hybrid scaffold system which was based on porous scaffolds made of PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) mixed with carbon nanotubes for enhanced growth and function of primary neurons. The scaffolds were fabricated with multi-walled carbon nanotubes, which are thought to improve interaction with dendrites owing to their high electrical conductivity and large surface area. Their results showed that such scaffolds allowed improved interfacing of neuronal cells with the nanomaterial structure and thereby enhanced the activity and function of cellular network dynamics.

Amidst the growing body of work, some of which was highlighted here, is the reality that the field is steadily moving in the direction of tailor-made scaffold constructs that reflect the specificities of the particular tissue that the construct is aimed at. This is hardly a surprise, but a realization that researchers are increasingly embracing.

Akron’s capabilities include extensive expertise in the development and manufacturing of custom scaffolds for a variety of regenerative medicine applications: from single polymer scaffolds to more complex constructs which include blends as well as combination scaffolds with the incorporation of biomaterials. Custom shapes, sized and tissue targets are part of our know-how: contact us to discuss your applications, or if you just have questions.

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